Mexican-American War (1846-1848)
LEADING TO THE WAR
BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO (April 21, 1836)
See Texas entry
Sam Houston led the expedition
American Texians defeated the Mexican forces of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto
Santa Anna was kidnapped
And forced to recognize the Rio Grande River as the border between the U.S. and Mexico
Mexicans back home, however, insisted that the true border was at the Nueces River
Both Mexico and the U.S. sent troops to the region
Oregon was jointly occupied by the U.S. and Great Britain
When Polk came to power, he negotiated with Britain to split the territory aat the 49th parallel
Despite his campaign promises of "54 40 or fight!"
Through Oregon Treaty of Jun. 15 1846
Divided at 49th parallel
US got Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and parts of Montana (1846)
Polk wanted to add California to the Union
Especially San Francisco Bay
To open US trade with Asia
But Mexico had strong territorial claims to California
Chain of missions and forts
Of claims to California
And troops in Texas
Led to conflict with Mexico
FIRST ATTEMPTS AT NEGOTIATION
Polk first attempted to smooth relations with Mexico
By sending an envoy (John Slidell)
And canceling Mexico’s debt to the US
In return for Texas
And the Rio Grande boundary
Then offered to buy California and New Mexico
For around $25/$30 million
The Mexicans were insulted by such a low offer
Sent Slidell packing (as Polk anticipated)
U.S. SENT "EXPEDITIONS" TO MEXICO
At the same time
Polk sent John Fremont to California
Supposedly on a scientific survey mission
Only 700 Americans among 6,000 californios (Spanish Californians) were living there.
Fremont declared California a republic and adopted bear as symbol.
US navy ships sailed to the California Coast and ended republic.
General Stephen W. Kearney
With 1,600 troops, he occupied Santa Fe without resistance then went to southern California and put down Mexican uprising against American rule
He also sent General Zachary Taylor and 2,000 troops
To the Rio Grande
As expected, Mexican troops crossed the Rio Grande
Attacking Taylor’s men
Polk claimed Mexicans had "shed blood on American soil'
This was enough to prompt Congress to declare war (Polk’s plan)
WAR WITH MEXICO
Most of fighting occurred in central Mexico.
Zachary Taylor defeated Santa Anna's army (Battle of Buena Vista)
Mexican government didn't negotiate.
General Winfield Scott sent to march inland from port of Veracruz to Mexico City.
Occupied the capital (Mexico City) in Sept. 1847.
Ended the war
Both sides agreed to Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
TREATY OF GUADELOUPE HIDALGO, 1848
Negotiated by Nicholas Trist (after he had been fired by Polk)
Trist ignored Polk's instructions and didn't ask for Baja California because he was ashamed of America's role in the war.
Confirmed annexation of Texas
Ceded California and present-day New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah to the U.S (Called the "Mexican Cession")
Guaranteed "male citizens" the "free enjoyment of their liberty and property" and "all rights of Americans (to protect large Mexican landowners)
U.S. government agreed to settle claims of its citizens against Mexico ($3.2 million)
And pay Mexico $15 million for all lands acquired (same amount as Louisiana Purchase)
COST OF WAR
War cost U.S. $98 million
12-13,000 Americans died (most from disease)
50,000 Mexicans died
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR/AGAINST
SUPPORTERS OF WAR
Southern planters supported war because they were eager to spread slavery to the West
CRITICS OF THE WAR
Mostly from New England
And Whigs in Congress
Who said that Polk (a Jacksonian Democrat)
Had provoked an unnecessary war
And usurped the power of Congress
Critics complained that this was not a moral battle
Americans had fought for independence, freedom for oppression and save democracy
But this was a selfish battle
Fought to fulfill Manifest Destiny
And expand and acquire more land.
John Quincy Adams denounced war
Henry David Thoreau transcendentalist writer who denounced war.
Thoreau was thrown in jail because he refused to pay taxes that would be used to pay for the "imperialist war"
Wrote "On Civil Disobedience"
Argued that not all civil laws are just
And that humans have an obligation to obey a higher law.
Urged others to follow his lead and refuse to pay taxes.
The book inspired later advocates of nonviolent resistance (like Martin Luther King)
Lincoln was Congressman from Illinois at the time.
Called Polk's justification the "half insane mumbling of a fever-dream"
Questioned whether Mexicans actually inflicted casualties on American soil.
Abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison
Argued war was waged simply to extend slavery to the West
And render slavery secure in Texas.
Racists feared that the nation couldn't assimilate non-white Catholics
WHAT TO DO WITH NEW TERRITORY
House of Representatives was anti-slave
Tried to pass the Wilmot Proviso in 1846
Declaring that slavery would not be permitted in any states that came from Mexican territory
Senate was pro-slave (showed balance slightly in favor of slave states)
Prevented the Wilmot Proviso from passing
Extending Missouri Compromise to the Pacific
Or “popular sovereignty”
Letting local settlers decide
See "Leading to the Civil War"
The discovery of gold in California complicated matters
Gold diggers (called 49ers) rushed into the area from all over the world
25,000 Americans came by ship
55,000 Americans crossed the continent
8,000 Mexicans showed up
5,000 South Americans
And a number of Europeans and Asians
Came to make their fortunes
Leaving San Francisco a Ghost Town
So many people came
That California could easily apply for statehood
And they did
As a free state
So that they wouldn’t have to compete with slave owners
For the gold
This created another problem
If California is a free state
How will the rest of the territory be decided?
COMPROMISE OF 1850
Based on Henry Clay's "Omnibus Bill"
Package of five separate bills passed Sept. 1850
California admitted as free state
Borders of Texas settled
Texas had claimed territory beyond Santa Fe
The only logical capital to New Mexico)
Compromise forced Texas to give up claims
Strengthened Fugitive Slave Law (1851)
Revised 1793 Fugitive Slave aw
Now federal commissioners can issue warrants
And compel citizens to help capture fugitives or be fined/imprisoned
Utah, New Mexico slave status to be decided by popular sovereignty
Slave trade (but not slavery) ended in capitol, Washington DC
Compromise only possible because of death of President Zachary Taylor.
After acquisition of Oregon and California --> desire for transcontinental railroad
Question: Where? North or South?
If in South
Beginning in St. Louis, Memphis or New Orleans (slave regions)
Needed to get just a small piece of territory from Mexico
Gadsden purchase (1852) -- bought for $10 million from Mexico
But abolitionists knew a southern railroad would spread slavery
If in North
Starting in Chicago, Illinois (proposed by Illinois senator Stephen Douglas)
Through unorganized territory west of Mississippi River
But territories would have to become states (see Kansas-Nebraska Act)
KANSAS NEBRASKA ACT
Proposed by Congress in May 1854
The Kansas-Nebraska Act
Allowed the people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska
To decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery (popular sovereignty)
Southern Democrats and Whigs
Jumped at opportunity to open northern territories to slavery
Quickly passed act
Outraged that Act effectively revoked Missouri Compromise of 1820
Which banned slavery north of 36 30
Result of Kansas-Nebraska Act (See above)
BORDER RUFFIANS (Pro-Slavery)
1000s of proslavery Missourians crossed to Kansas
Claimed as much land as they could - in order to make Kansas slave territory
These pro-slavery “Border Ruffians”
And recruited friends and family in Missouri to cast illegal ballots
Or voted multiple times
Or threatened indifferent settlers to vote for slavery
Also flocked to Kansas to establish free-soil towns
Border Ruffians burned free-soil (anti-slavery) town of Lawrence
Abolitionist John Brown killed five pro-slavery settlers
Inn Pottawatomie Massacre
John Brown not punished
JOHN BROWN AND HARPER'S FERRY VIRGINIA
John Brown raided US arsenal at Harper's Ferry
Hoping to seize cache of weapons in order to arm slave rebellion
But plan failed, Brown captured by marines.
Brown tried for treason
"I wanted to free the slaves, that was all I intended, I never intended murder or make an insurrection. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done! "
John Brown hanged
Considered a martyr by abolitionists
And a crazed ax murderer to Southerners